Eley Grove (formerly Venus Wood)

Hopefully the first of many
Our first, (and so far only,) wood was purchased in the summer of 2001. It is a 5.5 acre site in an outstanding area of natural beauty on the East Sussex/Kent borders. Trustees and supporters have taken on the management of the site, and it become a bit of a ‘proving ground’ for ideas. Management has mainly involved felling some of the 50-year old Norway Spruce trees originally planted for commercial use, and allowing the site to naturally regenerate to a broadleaved wood in keeping with the beautiful East Sussex countryside. In 2007 the 'Trust was granted a tree felling license for 40 of the larger Norway Spruce trees. Eley Grove then became a venue for a CS32 chainsaw course.

A large number of the Spruce trees have been felled and logged, and a variety of different types of tree, mainly Oak, Yew, Birch, Horse Chestnut and Holly planted. It was a strange to see the first Spruce tree come down but the clearance has allowed more trees to flourish. Some of the cleared areas have new growth appearing with Hornbeam and Sweet Chestnut being the main benefactors to date. We intend planting some Field Maple as some of the dominant oaks grow taller.

This is an ongoing scheme, with no fixed timescale. Eley Grove also comes alive each spring with thousands of wild bluebells and there is a small stream nearby with water stained by iron from underground rocks. Eventually all the Spruces will be removed, but this will take several years. The wood is evolving rather than rapidly changing and a fire-pit dug in the winter of 2001 has already been a source for dozens of bar-b-ques.

Eley Grove remains open to the public 365 days a year. When visitors are not there the wildlife comes out. The area is full of rabbits, deer and many species of birds. In addition, a large number of fungi can be seen each autumn, so if you are ever in the Staplecross area why not make a visit. Directions can be had by contacting the Olgar Trust.

Archaeology of the area
Eley Grove lies in an area that 2,000 years ago formed the boundary between two prominent Celtic tribes. These were the Cantiaci with their capital in modern Canterbury and the Regini based in modern Chichester. Both started as independent kingdoms but later came under Roman rule. Eley Grove falls within the eastern most area of Regini occupation. The Romans were interested in the iron ore in the area and had it smelted into ingots, which were then shipped out of Britain. At the time, iron was worth more than gold. A roman road runs south from the old Roman port of Bodiam through Staplecross village. This important road was used to transport iron to the port, and is not far from our wood.

Our wood looks like ‘old soil.’ An unusual curved northern boundary is the meeting point of three ancient Wealden trackways. In 2019 the Trustees decided to change the name of the wood to Eley Grove. This was in memory of one of our earliest Trustees, Andrew 'Eley' Sumner, who sadly died that year of cancer. He spent most of his spare time in the wood and worked tirelessly on its maintenance. Eley will be remembered for many projects, including creating the fire-pit.

So much more needs to be discovered!

The nearest postcode is TN32 5SH (Junction Road.)

Staplecross itself is a place full of history. Known to the Romans, it was equally important during the Middle Ages and was the hub of the Hundred of Staple that comprised the villages of Northiam, Ewhurst Green, Bodiam, Sedlescombe and parts of Brede, Mountfield and Whatlingon. The name ‘Staplecross’ probably derives from ‘the market where provisions are bought at the cross roads.’

Modern Staplecross is a pretty rural hamlet with a pub, (the Cross Inn,) and a school. It has long lost its own Post Office. Many of the houses in the area are over 200 years old. Parts of the Cross Inn are 600 years old. The pub is a Grade II listed building, now owned by the community. It is at the crossroads and is the centre of Staplecross life, and well worth a visit. A local bus service runs into coastal Hastings, a few miles away.